Home ice can help Wings against an iffy road team

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
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Detroit – — With Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings were hoping to take advantage of home ice.

And the opponent, despite its offensive prowess, could only help Detroit.

While the Red Wings ended the regular season on a 5-5-2 run, the Lightning, which won an NHL best 32 games at home, were 18-16-7 on the road.

"Maybe (home ice isn't) as it used to be, but it's still a big deal," Red Wings forward Justin Abdeolkader said. "Anytime you start a series on the road, your goal is to get one (victory) and we did a good job getting that.

"Maybe we didn't play the way we wanted to play but coming back home, we can get the start they had in their building and get the crowd into it. Anytime you have home ice you're going to get that extra boost from the crowd."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper, however, was quick to point out his team isn't that bad on the road.

"If you look at some of the venues we've won in, we've won in some very hectic buildings and against some very good teams," he said. "That has proven to us that we can win anywhere."

Tampa Bay won at San Jose, Anaheim and Montreal, and is 7-5-4 on the road since February. The Lightning split two games at Joe Louis Arena during the regular season.

In the postseason, home teams are 14-9 entering Tuesday's games, and East teams are 6-5.

"Teams are so evenly matched," Abdelkader said. "Before, there was a discrepancy between a home team seed (higher) and an away (lower) seed. Now any team can win (seed) one through eight, no matter if you're on home ice or not and teams are so evenly matched.

"Anytime you have home ice you're going to get that extra boost from the crowd. You're comfortable playing there. You're in your locker room, your bedroom"

Tough fourth line

Tampa Bay's fourth line of Brian Boyle centering Brenden Morrow and J.T. Brown has been a problem for any opponent.

All three can play physical, but provide offense.

"If you talk about Boyle's line, they're a pain in the butt," Cooper said. "They understand what their job is. Their goal is to get the puck from one of the ice to the other and keep it there."

Setting an example

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock believes grinders such as Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Luke Glendening are good examples for Tomas Jurco to look to at this point in his career.

Babcock said several young players "have this fantasy when you arrive that you're this high-end skilled guy who is going to beat people one-on-one and score. Unless you're a superstar, that just isn't happening."

Ice chips

Pavel Datsyuk has been named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy (sportsmanship, gentlemanly play).

Datsyuk, a four-time winner of the award (from 2006-09), joins former teammate Jiri Hudler (now with the Calgary Flames) and Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles).

Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who hasn't practiced between games, returned for Game 3.

… Cooper, on Abdelkader, who played against the coach in high school — Abdelkader for Muskegon Mona Shores and Cooper for Lansing Catholic Central: "Abdelkader doesn't get the press (he deserves). I've admired him as a player for a long time. ... He's earned his way into the league and deserves to be here. He's a good player."



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